Tacoma Urbanist

Jan. 4, 2011 at 12:01am

Can the Tacoma City Council Show "True Grit" and Keep the Washington State History Museum Open?


Tacoma has had mixed results in standing up to the State of Washington. They have done so occasionally, and yet at others times, have seemed resigned to failure.  The council deserves great credit in resisting the efforts of the Olympia to close the Murray Morgan bridge and acquire the funds to do so.

However, when faced with the threat of the loss of a significant portion of the Dome District, the council folded and gave little opposition to the state's plan to place a blight inducing berm through the Dome District.  Seattle, meanwhile, has taken a far more confident stance against threats of detrimental state actions. When faced with the threat of an expanded viaduct, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels held a heated press conference and vehemently declared that the city would not allow an expanded blightful viaduct to be built in the city even though the State of Washington had the ability to push through the project.

The Tacoma City Council will get another chance to prove the city's valor this year as the State of Washington has targeted the Washington State History Museum for closure while funding museums and many other discretionary projects in Seattle and across Washington State.

As a single example, Seattle's state funded museums such as the Burke Museum received $2,156,000 in 2010 and is in no threat of closure.  "It's in Seattle after all" goes the rationale. 

Tacoma's greatest challenge isn't going to be in the Legislature, as difficult as that may be, it will be in keeping itself from being resigned to failure,

Council Vote Tonight on Saving the WSHM

Tonight, the Tacoma City Council will vote on a resolution to oppose the closure of the Washington State History Museum.  (See page 211 of tonight's agenda).

Although important, tonight's vote will be only a small step in the effort to restore funding in the state's budget. With the loss of Rep. Dennis Flannigan in the legislature, Tacoma's legislative delegation is going to have to work extra hard to keep the WSHM open.   Here's their chance to show the leadership skills they assured voters they possessed in the election.  


comments [45]  |  posted under Tacoma


by NineInchNachos on 1/4/2011 @ 12:20am
they gave their mummy back to Egypt a long time ago. Screw them!

by Erik on 1/4/2011 @ 1:19am

Tacoma City Council is prepared to vote Tuesday on a resolution that would show strong support for keeping downtown Tacoma's Washington State History Museum open. On Dec. 15, Gov. Chris Gregoire unveiled a proposed biennium budget that would save $5.2 million by closing the history museums in Tacoma and Spokane, eliminating state-funded education programs and outreach activities through state historical societies, and providing "skeleton staffing" to oversee facilities and collections (see "Is History Museum History? Governor's budget proposal would close state museum in Tacoma," TDI 12/15/10, www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/li... ). The move is part of a larger effort to close a $4.6 billion shortfall.


by The Jinxmedic on 1/4/2011 @ 6:26am
Complete lack of state funding is why there have been no significant travelling exhibits at the musem, and this same lack of funding is why the museum itself is in disrepair- although it is a rather new building. Museums always take the cuts in this state, which is a major reason why I am no longer in that career field. No job security. (Or as my mentor in the field once said, "There's no future in history".)

To get the dangling carrot of American Association of Museums (AAM) accreditation, most US public museums in the past twenty years have been forced to go to "storyline" type formats, less reliant on material culture (cool stuff), and more reliant on photos, maps, and recordings. If people wanted to see that, they can get it through books and the internet. Worse yet, AAM standards required that any exhibit having human remains (this means mummies, skeletons- you name it) be removed from display, and also pushed a politically correct theme- firearms collections (such as the WSHS had) were sold off, all loaned items were returned, natural history exhibits were removed, and anything else determined to be "culturally insensitive" (read "native american collections") was eliminated.

That left most museums with nothing interesting remaining. What AAM never understood, was that the things they deemed "insensitive" were the kinds of things that people went to museums to see. Not a collection of photos - you can get that more effectively in a history book. Not mannequins painted monochromatic colors- Nordstrom's has that. Recordings of voices? Internet. Television. Movies.

I predicted this course of events when the transition to an AAM storyline model by the WSHS was first discussed, and did my best to save as much material culture as I could to be incorporated in to the upcoming storyline. Of course, it was not enough - and so we are left with a general run-down sterility.

by NineInchNachos on 1/4/2011 @ 7:44am
yes. the only thing that will save the museum industry are fly-by-night folksy operations like the American Museum of Alaskan Entrepreneurship (AMoAE) up your nose with a rubber hose AAM accreditation !

by NineInchNachos on 1/4/2011 @ 7:47am
And as Tacoma Mama points out the ONLY thing this place has going for it is the location and model trains. Why not re-invent itself as the Model Train das capital of the world?

by jenyum on 1/4/2011 @ 9:13am
There are some things they could do to make it more exciting without being culturally insensitive. Not having huge displays full of beige statues comes to mind. Does the AAM have a problem with using live actors (like Fort Nisqually)? I believe at Fort Nisqually they are all volunteers.

I also don't understand why the only display devoted to Washington's volcanic history is a dull gray map in a light table. That is definitely a missed opportunity to present something engaging, as well as educational.

by NineInchNachos on 1/4/2011 @ 10:13am
dig this:






just WTF are they doing over there?

by The Jinxmedic on 1/4/2011 @ 10:53am
Docents are volunteers...

by Erik on 1/4/2011 @ 11:23am
@Jinx: Thanks for the museum insider insight.

@RR: Yeah, the WSHM needs some signature attractions. Something with a big name, crazy or with some buzz.

Seattle Art museum has Picaso now.

by NineInchNachos on 1/4/2011 @ 11:49am
ah. well it messes with their brand

by Erik on 1/4/2011 @ 9:15pm

Tacoma City Council passes resolution against the closure of the Tacoma History Museum.


Extra note: Councilmember Campbell speaks out against the wall erected in front of the Bridge of Glass:

tacomamama: Campbell: request that all barriers to access be removed remains on council's legislative agenda (taking down fence & freeing glass bridge)
Tue Jan 04 - 5:35:22 pm

by Erik on 1/4/2011 @ 9:55pm
Just listened to the whole discussion. Boe and Campbell supported the resolution and mentioned (indirectly) removing the wall in front of the Bridge of Glass.

The WSHM sure could gather some additional support if they would cut down the wall tomorrow.

Prior Exit 133 discussion:


by NineInchNachos on 1/4/2011 @ 11:17pm
would anyone be interested in performing a reverend billy exorcism on the bridge of glass fence for video?

by Erik on 1/4/2011 @ 11:25pm
would anyone be interested in performing a reverend billy exorcism on the bridge of glass fence for video?

There is definitely Tacomic material with the threatened closure and the wall which still stands there.

Q: Would the WSHM remove the wall if it could save itself from extinction? Does the dreaded pedestrian blocking wall that Tacomans loath mean that much to them?

by The Jinxmedic on 1/5/2011 @ 8:06am
Save the museum, remove the wall.

by NineInchNachos on 1/5/2011 @ 8:20am
Removing the fence would change my WSHM DEATH WISH over night.

by The Jinxmedic on 1/5/2011 @ 9:10am
How simple is that, everyone? Remove the wall, get community support with INT3GR1TY!

by jenyum on 1/5/2011 @ 9:23am
What I take from Marty's comment about the wall still being on the council's legislative priorities list is that since the Museum is a state institution it will take action at the state level to remove it. While we know the city council reads Feedtacoma, it might be worth calling out LAURIE JINKINS, JEANNIE DARNIELLE, DEBBIE REGALA, and STEVE KIRBY to look into the matter.

I know they have a lot of really difficult, gut wrenching decisions to make right now - this isn't one of them! It will make the constituents happy (unless they happen to work in the WSHM gift shop, but I'm pretty sure that's a small voting block) will help the community and should be fairly budget neutral. I'm not sure if it's a legislative or administrative matter, either way it would be nice to know the 27th and 29th district legislators were working on it.

by Jesse on 1/5/2011 @ 9:28am
We will be having a similar discussion in a couple of years about the Museum of Glass and how it will survive with a duplicate museum in Seattle.

World biggest wood fired pizza restaurant?

by The Jinxmedic on 1/5/2011 @ 9:30am
The rebirth of "Pizza and Pipes"!

by NineInchNachos on 1/5/2011 @ 10:07am
shouldn't be a problem, seattle MOG will be showing cthuly art.

by Erik on 1/5/2011 @ 11:00am
How simple is that, everyone? Remove the wall, get community support with INT3GR1TY


>i>While we know the city council reads Feedtacoma, it might be worth calling out LAURIE JINKINS, JEANNIE DARNIELLE, DEBBIE REGALA, and STEVE KIRBY to look into the matter.

Yep. The WSHM squandered a ton of public support with the wall debacle.

Take a look at how huge the WSHM is. Shutting it down would be monstrous blight on the city and a huge waster of taxpayer dollars. The WSHM was just built.

The WSHM needs a quick pro-active plan to build community support and pledge to be better, leaner and more exciting.

by cisserosmiley on 1/5/2011 @ 11:57am
the most important thing we could do is send a good ol'tacoma boy -or- girl up to Speaker Frank Chopp's district (43rd) to run against him...our slogan will be:
also: include steve conway (steve kirby's seat-mate) in our Taco delagation

by fredo on 1/5/2011 @ 12:47pm
Jinx, nice posting 6:26AM (1/4/11)

Until reading your posting I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong with the WSHM. yes, it's the storyline design of the place with all the drab mannequins and fabricated stuff. i want to see cool old stuff, lots of it. the dustier and more disarray the better. As big as that building is, there should be so much stuff that you couldn't see it all if you came back every day for a week.

And now may I expand the discussion?

Why is it people can go the library for free but have to pay to go to the museum? Why is reading about history free, but seeing it comes at a price?

Why are people complaining about the look of the museum? When the place was constructed people were fawning over the wonderful design and how harmonius it was with the neighborhood?

Why didn't they reuse an old building like the Heidelberg Brewery instead of a brand new building?

How many of the 100,000 admissions per year were really just the Free Day admissions and were not paid for?

Will the domino effect kill the glass museum, the art museum, and the car museum, and what about the Holistic Forge Works?

by The Jinxmedic on 1/5/2011 @ 1:18pm
Le May will be a destination in it's own right. Meaning: if downtown dies, it won't affect LeMay. Visitors just won't bother riding the link to downtown, is all.

by cisserosmiley on 1/5/2011 @ 2:38pm
i commend the council for asking the leg to not close tacoma, but for all it's worth here's a piece of what the leg really did this week:
this pre-filed bill would make it ok for "family members" to now serve on the citizen's panel to decide elected officials salaries-why not, maybe my wife and my mom could help my boss give me a raise too?
also, this pre-filed bill would make gun silencers legal, a tacoma bill 4 sure

by The Jinxmedic on 1/5/2011 @ 2:49pm
Silencers have a legitimate purpose for properly licensed pest control services. (Don't laugh, this is for real.) Silencers are still a Class-III federally controlled item (like fully-automatic weapons and short-barrelled shotguns) that a "normal person" can't purchase or own. This bill doesn't really change anything, except for allowing the registered businesses to off rats (and maybe pit bulls) at night without waking the neighborhood.

by NineInchNachos on 1/5/2011 @ 2:49pm
Holistic Forge Works campus museum (AMoAE) is a Central Tacoma destination by appointment only (open one day of the year to general public) our only real competition is the Buffalo Soldier Museum on the Mr. Jones Glass compound.

by cisserosmiley on 1/5/2011 @ 3:02pm
i always thought the "pop pop, pop pop, pop" noise in the night was people shooting at people, im glad it's just a robust pest control industry

by The Jinxmedic on 1/5/2011 @ 3:36pm
Pests are different things to different people, heh.

by NineInchNachos on 1/5/2011 @ 4:30pm
why would you use a gun on a rat? What the hell are chainsaws for?

by The Jinxmedic on 1/5/2011 @ 5:02pm
You ever hear a quiet chainsaw? This really should call for ninjas with (appropriately silenced) piano-wire garrotes..

by NineInchNachos on 1/5/2011 @ 5:07pm
electric chainsaw is quiet and 'green'

by Mofo from the Hood on 1/6/2011 @ 6:40am

Culturally Significant 19th Century Tacoma Wharf Rats

by fredo on 1/6/2011 @ 7:55am
I hope people will remember that it wasn't Dino Rossi who proposed closing the WSHM, but rather Christine Gregoire, our Democratic Governor. Voters enjoy your selection! LOL

by The Jinxmedic on 1/6/2011 @ 8:02am
@ NiN: No chainsaw is "green".

However, I would certainly support a "wharf rats" exhibit.

by NineInchNachos on 1/6/2011 @ 8:36am
shoulda elected the guy who profits on foreclosed houses. should hook him up with WSHM

by Mofo from the Hood on 1/6/2011 @ 8:41am

We Buy Ugly Houses!

by fredo on 1/6/2011 @ 8:48am
"shoulda elected the guy who profits on foreclosed houses"

hindsight's 20/20

by NineInchNachos on 1/6/2011 @ 8:56am
Dino needs to think small if he ever wants to get elected. Maybe he should try for pierce county assessor treasurer..

by fredo on 1/6/2011 @ 9:07am
My concern isn't for Mr. Rossi and his employment prospects, but rather the beleaguered citizens of our fine state. They've really been sold down the river by their apostle of liberalism, Christine Gregoire. Don't vote for her then complain about her decision making.

by fredo on 1/6/2011 @ 9:31am
The real problem it seems to me is the low attendance at the museum. considering the scale of the place one would think attendance would be on the scale of thousands per day rather than 300. there are probably some coffee shops in town that draw more people than the museum. If one subracts out the free admissions then the average number of paid admissions might be as low as 100 or 200 per day. Here is summary of some thoughts on museum problems:

1. Exhibits not sufficiently interesting
2. Insufficient number of tourists
3. Incorrect admission fee schedule
4. Free admissions killing paid admissions
5. Overreaching mission
6. No identified revenue source for sustaining operations.
7. Static exhibits guarantee no return visits.

by Mofo from the Hood on 1/6/2011 @ 9:45am
8.Trampy college girls blocking the sidewalk.

by NineInchNachos on 1/6/2011 @ 10:03am
9. hate the game, not the player

by cisserosmiley on 1/6/2011 @ 10:20am
10. smells "new"